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Lewis v. Louisiana State University Medical Center Shreveport

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

November 20, 2019

CLARENCE D. LEWIS #123525, C-1, D-1 Plaintiff-Appellant

          Appealed from the First Judicial District Court for the Parish of Caddo, Louisiana Trial Court No. 603, 482 Honorable Michael Pitman, Judge


          PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, LLP By: Joseph S. Woodley Lawrence W. Pettiette, Jr. Rendi B. Wiggins Counsel for Appellees

          Before MOORE, STEPHENS, and McCALLUM, JJ.

          MOORE, J.

         Clarence Lewis, an inmate acting in proper person, appeals a judgment that sustained an exception of prescription and dismissed his claims of medical malpractice and civil rights violations against BRFHH, dba University Health Shreveport. We affirm.

         Lewis was serving a 15-year sentence at Riverbend Detention Center, in Lake Providence, La., when he suffered symptoms of a heart attack. He was taken to University Health for, as he recalled, "further testing." He admits giving consent to Dr. Hencock to perform a coronary angiogram (dye test), but insists that he staunchly refused to let anyone implant any "stents or balloons * * * into his arteries." However, the next day, he discovered that Drs. Hencock, Morris and Hanner had done precisely that - put stents in his arteries. He considered this a blatant violations of his rights.[1]

         The operation occurred on August 22, 2016, and he was aware of the stents the very next day.

         The first filing in this record, however, is not dated until September 14, 2017, and is headed, "Motion for Decretal Order or, in the alternative, Motion to Invoke Supervisory Jurisdiction." Lewis alleged that in April 2017, he had mailed to the First JDC a § 1983 action against LSU Medical Center, its medical director, directors of surgery and of nursing, University Health, and Dr. Augustine Nijoku, alleging violations of his civil rights (and demanding some $22.65 million in damages); the clerk of court replied that Lewis would have to send a $300 filing fee; Lewis filed a motion for pauper status, which was denied; then, the clerk advised that it would be a $600 filing fee - $300 for the petition and $100 for each additional service. Lewis demanded a "decretal order" to enforce the original statutory filing fee of $300 and to "roll back" the prescriptive period for his civil rights claim. He followed this filing with a letter requesting a separate order "rolling back the prescriptive period" and a request for expedited consideration, attaching a new § 1983 complaint (adding Dr. Hencock and now demanding $24.3 million).

         BRFHH initially responded, on October 26, 2017, with a dilatory exception of prematurity urging that Lewis's claim was actually for medical malpractice and he had never filed a request for medical review panel ("MRP") as required under the Medical Malpractice Act, La. R.S. 40:1231.8 B(1)(a)(i).

         Perhaps alerted by the reference to the MRP, Lewis wrote an MRP request, dated November 11, 2017, which the Division of Administration received on November 21. He also filed a "judgment of default," on November 17, which the district court summarily denied, and, later, a "dilatory notice of non-action," asserting that the defendants were not responding to his complaints.

         BRFHH then filed, in January 2018, an exception of prescription, which is the issue on appeal. This alleged that the healthcare was rendered on August 22, 2016, but Lewis's MRP request was not dated until November 21, 2017, over a year after the alleged malpractice and thus untimely under La. R.S. 9:5628.

         The matter proceeded to a hearing over two days in March 2018. On the first day, Lewis participated by phone conference call from his current placement, in Raymond Laborde Correctional Center, in Cottonport. The transcript shows some confusion on his part, and he first insisted he was entitled to a default judgment because nobody had timely responded to his petition. He was also confused that BRFHH could be a qualified healthcare provider, while the other defendants, subject to a different statute, were not.[2]After a patient explanation from the district court, Lewis argued that he had tried to start the process on May 3, 2017, and he had the "papers" to prove it, but there was no way for him to offer these from Cottonport. Indulgently, the court recessed the hearing for two weeks and issued an order letting Lewis out of Laborde for the occasion.

         When the hearing resumed with Lewis present, BRFHH introduced its certificate of enrollment and a letter (dated December 5, 2017) advising Lewis that BRFHH is a qualified healthcare provider. Lewis then offered three letters: (1) from PCF saying that University Health and Dr. Hencock are not qualified healthcare providers, (2) his own letter to the Division of Administration, dated ...

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